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Fighting Men

D.A.N. Jones, 2 February 1984

Ring of Truth 
by Vernon Scannell.
Robson, 342 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 86051 244 4
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The Tiger and the Rose: An Autobiography 
by Vernon Scannell.
Robson, 197 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 86051 221 5
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Man of War 
by John Masters.
Joseph, 314 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 7181 2360 3
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The Notebook of Gismondo Cavalletti 
by R.M. Lamming.
Cape, 248 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 224 02141 9
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The Rape of Shavi 
by Buchi Emecheta.
Ogwugwu Afor, 178 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 9508177 1 6
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Thomas Lyster: A Cambridge Novel 
by David Wurtzel.
Brilliance, 215 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 946189 30 7
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Don’t Swing a Cat 
by Eva Bolgar.
Bachman and Turner, 143 pp., £7.50, November 1983, 0 85974 098 6
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... in The Tiger and the Rose; but he is evidently not quite satisfied with them. Turn for a moment to John Masters’s strangely similar novel, Man of War. It is an apologia for another sort of fighting man, a professional soldier. The hero, Dusty Miller, squeezes his way into the British Army during World War One, aged only 16; when World War Two comes ...

People’s War

John Ellis, 19 February 1981

Tomorrow at Dawn 
by J.G. de Beus.
Norton, 191 pp., £5.75, April 1980, 0 393 01263 8
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The Crucible of War 
by Barrie Pitt.
Cape, 506 pp., £8.95, June 1980, 0 224 01771 3
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Chindit 
by Richard Rhodes James.
Murray, 214 pp., £10.50, August 1980, 0 7195 3746 0
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The Chief 
by Ronald Lewin.
Hutchinson, 282 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780091425005
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Special Operations Europe: Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War 
by Basil Davidson.
Gollancz, 288 pp., £8.50, July 1980, 0 575 02820 3
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... example of the ordinary soldier’s memoir and covers a lot of the ground already traversed by John Masters, Bernard Fergusson and Michael Calvert. Yet it is none the less welcome for that. Despite the profusion of fighting soldiers’ memoirs, from all fronts, the appalling severity of their ordeal is still not properly appreciated. This is one genre ...

Past Masters

Raymond Williams, 25 June 1987

Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the 19th Century 
by Marjorie Reeves and Warwick Gould.
Oxford, 365 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 19 826672 3
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Beauty and Belief: Aesthetics and Religion in Victorian Literature 
by Hilary Fraser.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £25, January 1987, 0 521 30767 8
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The Correspondence of John Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton 
edited by John Bradley and Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 537 pp., £45, April 1987, 0 521 32091 7
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... of Fiore. Neither judgment is even approximately true, but this search for singular sources and masters is so ingrained an intellectual habit, as an alternative to more general analysis, that we shall not soon see its end. Yet there is something to be learned from this continual production of past authorities and supposedly heterodox traditions, as an ...

Boeotian Masters

Donald Davie, 5 November 1992

The Paperbark Tree: Selected Prose 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 360 pp., £18.95, September 1992, 0 85635 976 9
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... in Australia’, Murray had acknowledged that all he claims for MacNamara can be claimed for John Clare in England at the same date. Of MacNamara’s ‘insouciant rhyming’, he says that it ‘can be seen as a proletarian version of Byron’s earlier manner, and it mimes the informality of a free settler’s hut rather than the fitted regularities of a ...
The Dancing Wu Li Masters 
by Gary Zukav.
Hutchinson, 352 pp., £4.50, October 1979, 0 09 139401 5
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... a connection between specialist and general knowledge of atoms, particles, forces and fields. Some masters of high science have become sceptical of any possibility of popularising their subject without making a mere caricature of what they know and love. But it is more in keeping with scholarly universalism to welcome every effort of this kind with positive ...

Alchemy: A Tale

John Hughes, 13 October 1988

... the nothingness of Mercurial Lore Screaming, ‘One nature rejoices in another nature, One nature masters another nature.’ A certain man was burnt to death on Desolation Island By an unflickering, nonluminous, tongue of ...

Short Books on Great Men

John Dunn, 22 May 1980

Jesus 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Oxford, 102 pp., June 1980, 0 19 283016 3
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Aquinas 
by Anthony Kenny.
Oxford, 86 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287500 0
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Pascal 
by Alban Krailsheimer.
Oxford, 84 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287512 4
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Hume 
by A.J. Ayer.
Oxford, 102 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287528 0
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Marx 
by Peter Singer.
Oxford, 82 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287510 8
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... life is both centrally important and irretrievably contentious. The personnel of the ‘Modern Masters’ series may simply map the credal disorder of our days, the fitful intellectual allegiances of a society of masterless persons. Past Masters, however, are, or at any rate ought to be, figures of historically proven ...

Masters of Art

John Sutherland, 18 December 1980

Loon Lake 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, 258 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 333 30641 4
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Alice fell 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.50, November 1980, 0 224 01872 8
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The Covenant 
by James Michener.
Secker, 873 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 436 27966 5
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Ancesteral Vices 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 231 pp., £6.50, November 1980, 0 436 45809 8
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... The jacket informs us that Loon Lake is ‘a novel by E.L. Doctorow Author of RAGTIME’. Ragtime must have been a hard act to follow. In its day (1975), it was the most highly paid-for novel ever. Doctorow had well over two million dollars in subsidiary-rights advances and a whole generation of readers were introduced by it to the meaning of the word ‘hype ...

Crop Masters

Daniel Aaron, 19 January 1989

Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of the Revolution 
by T.H. Breen.
Princeton, 216 pp., $9.95, February 1988, 0 691 04729 4
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... revolutionists with a schema. The pervasive influence of Country publicists like Thomas Gordon, John Trenchard, Bolingbroke and Benjamin Hoadly on colonial pamphleteers is now taken for granted. American historians have tested Bailyn’s thesis by extending and particularising it. This is what T.H. Breen has done in Tobacco Culture. The impact of Country ...

Make it more like a murder mystery

Eleanor Birne: The life and death of Stuart Shorter, 19 May 2005

Stuart: A Life Backwards 
by Alexander Masters.
Fourth Estate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2005, 0 00 720036 6
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... The first time Alexander Masters met Stuart Shorter, he was crouched in a doorway next to the discount picture-framing shop round the corner from Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge: as it happens, the framing shop I used to work for as a sandwich boarder in my teens. Every Saturday the shop owner would hand me a board and a stack of leaflets and I’d hurry down to Christ’s Pieces, a public green in town which was also, I now know, Stuart’s home ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 20 November 2008

... dark. They might be giants. They made me a fugitive. They made me a criminal. They only kill their masters. They shall have music. They were sisters. They still call me Bruce. They won’t believe me. They won’t forget. Alcove Is it possible that spring could be once more approaching? We forget each time what a mindless business it is, porous like ...

Modern Masters

Frank Kermode, 24 May 1990

Where I fell to Earth: A Life in Four Places 
by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £16, February 1990, 0 7011 3490 9
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May Week was in June 
by Clive James.
Cape, 249 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 0 224 02787 5
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... the Mill. Rutherford had sat here on the wall and watched the atoms pursue their unbroken curve. John Maynard Keynes had looked into that clear declension and seen the economic consequences of the Versailles Treaty. Wittgenstein had seen the silence of what cannot be expressed, Alan Turing the soul of a machine. Apparently there was now some crippled young ...

Uncle Max

Patricia Craig, 20 December 1984

The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... Like most biographers, Anthony Masters starts by announcing his subject’s date of birth; unlike most biographers, he gets it wrong. Charles Henry Maxwell Knight was born on 9 July 1900, not 4 September, under the sign of Cancer, not Virgo, however tempting it may be, for reasons which become clear in the course of the story, to assign him to the latter ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Reading Butler, 5 August 2004

... its members had played their part in meeting the not so subconscious desires of their political masters and dressing the intelligence up. So should John Scarlett, the head of the JIC, take the rap? Not according to Butler: ‘We realise that our conclusions may provoke calls for the current chairman of the JIC, Mr ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: On Bullshit, 17 April 2003

... the Messenger, a title rich in ‘poor me’ implications; this one is called The Wages of Spin (John Murray, 261pp., £18.99, March, 0 7195 6481 6), the implication of which is that Sir Bernard wants to impose a buffer zone between himself and those who now do the bullshitting job he once did: they being headed, it seems, not for a knighthood but for the ...

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